There is evolution in music and then there is revolution. ATOMIZER's "Caustic Music for the Spiritually Bankrupt" is without a doubt of the revolutionary variety compared to previous albums of a more traditional black/thrash nature. I for one would have loved to hear what Melbourne's own Jason Healey (bass/guitar/vocals/damn-near-everything) did next. Alas, that's not going to happen, as the dream officially died with this final release. Not only is "Caustic Music…" a huge leap forward for ATOMIZER, it is also a welcome — and still somehow fitting — change of pace for Hells Headbangers, a label that most often proudly sticks to what it knows.
What the fuss is all about is an album from ATOMIZER that has largely shed its black metal skin and gone for an infectious, stripped down and propulsive sound that owes as much to JOY DIVISION as it does BESTIAL MOCKERY. Yet there is no loss of aggression or nefarious atmosphere. The venom still flows from the mouth of Healey; he just enunciates in a way that reminds of latter period classic British punk and it fits splendidly with the bass-driven compositions. Recorded with the tough 'n tight drumming of Sean Cummiskey, this final studio album is a real mover that features song after memorable song.
"A Song to Swing To" does in fact swing with its gothy post-punk chorus, strong rhythmic backbone and semi-thrashing riff. The aggressiveness is kicked up a notch on "Upon the Lamb of God They Suckle No More", another standout. "Hail Hail to the Hangman" and "Flowering Spores of Imagination" are supported by attention-grabbing backing shouts. "A Date with Eternity" even boasts the magnificent sounds of a trumpet! "Esoteria is Now in Command" is one of several tracks with lyrics that burn into the brain ("when you grind it all down it's nothing but pulp").
In fact, the lyrics throughout explore a range of dark tales. On "All Disfigured and Blue" it is autoerotic asphyxiation ("His intention was not to kill himself") and on "As the Blackening Waves of Fear within me Rise" the subject is suicide ("the floor just inches from my feet, that chair I stepped off just out of reach"). It is glorious, it is tuneful, and it is frightful in its menacing approach.
"Caustic Music for the Spiritually Bankrupt" is just a great album and easily one of the best releases to come from the hallowed halls of Hells Headbangers. If you knew nothing of ATOMIZER prior to hearing this album, you'll soon be intrigued to the hilt, surely digging up as much information on Healey's work as possible and purchasing the rest of the catalogue.